Most political pundits have predicted that we’re about to enter the most negative, vicious part of the 2008 Presidential campaign, with only 30 days left before Election Day. John McCain is declining in the polls, and coupled with the short time left, this translates into a down-in-the-dirt, bare knuckles, desperation brawl. This is the time when you should expect that McCain will start drawing down on his Rove protégé adviser’s experience, and dip into the smear. What is the “smear ” you ask? That’s where you look for connections between your opponent and something really despicable, something dishonorable, something guaranteed to generate a negative response in just about anyone who sees it, including rabid supporters. It could be something innocuous, something along the lines of a political Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon exercise. Once you find it, you use it over and over, in short ads, whisper campaigns, and direct commentary by your minions, in an attempt to connect the “ick” factor of the subject to the candidate. This worked really well in the 2004 election, when the supposed Swift Boat veterans launched a full scale attack on John Kerry, challenging his service to the country and his patriotism. Classic Karl Rove, though the Bush campaign was careful not to be associated with the ads.
The New York Times today has an article that I predict you’ll hear more about. Remember the Weathermen? The radical student organization of the 60s opposed to the Vietnam War that espoused the use of violence as valid protest, including bombings? One of the founders of the organization has a connection to Barack Obama, albeit extremely innocuous. William Ayers, now 63, was one of those students violently opposed to the Vietnam War, and his organization was responsible for bombings, armed robberies and some deaths. However, this occurred when Obama was eight years old.
The Times article fairly exhaustively details the minimal contact Obama had with Ayers over the years. Ayers went on to earn a doctorate in Education, became somewhat of a local and national authority on the subject, and is now a professor of Education at the University of Illinois, with 15 books under his belt. Obama’s contacts with the man were exclusively in his role as a community organizer in Chicago, in the context of education, Mr. Ayers area of expertise.
And for a little touch of irony, the current mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, whose father tangled with the Weathermen in the 60s, had this to say about Mr. Ayers:
“This is 2008,” Mr. Daley said. “People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”
So what does John McCain say about the Obama/Ayers connection?
In a televised interview last spring, Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, asked, “How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?”
This from a man who was responsible for dropping bombs on ostensible war targets, but who knew that innocent people would die as a result, and who went to prison for 5 years for doing so, albeit under the bombed country’s then wartime version of justice. Can you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y? John McCain has been personally responsible for more innocent deaths from bombs than most anyone in the country, especially those running for President.
The fact that Obama had some contact with Mr. Ayers, albeit in a purely philanthropic situation, clearly has no relevance to his ability to handle the Presidency. In fact, the opposite conclusion is probably more true. As Tom Hayden, the former 60s activist said:
“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”
A Swift Boat smear will try to paint Obama with the crimes of an individual with whom he has no philosophic or political connection, in a cynical bid to win over the ignorant and the biased to vote for him. The connection between Obama and Ayers is far more distant than the connection between McCain and Charles Keating. Remember him? The Savings and Loan debacle of the 80s? McCain lives in a glass house (actually 7 or 8 of them) so he should be careful when he’s throwing rocks at Obama.
So if you see those stupid little swift boaters pulling up with a new ad campaign, ignore them. They’re irrelevant.